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12 February 2013

Bagman Ukes

There are certain people out there who deserve special mention for just doing what they do. In today's post I'm going to share some photos from my neighbour's garage. For the purposes of this post, let's call my neighbour Bagman. Read on and see if you can figure out why ;-)

Bagman was the person that first inspired me to have a go at building instruments. Here is a collection of some of the wonderful things he's built...

I was giving Bagman an update on my Sharkfin build the other day and
with a huge grin on his face he announced that he'd built a balalaika.
"A balalaika! They're Russian aren't they?" I said surprised.
"Aye, lad," came the reply with a wink.
Our garages are side by side, so I'd known he'd been up to something.
Today I got first sight of it. I had in my mind one of those big
triangular-shaped bodies. Bagman's version is a sort of  teardrop. And
instead of the typical three strings, Bagman's balalaika has six!
Check out the neck. That's ash. Bagman's done a fantastic job of
the frets. He tells me that it's a prototype. He's going to build one with
a guitar-shaped body next.  Have you noticed too that it's electric? While
I snapped this photo Bagman was playing some Beach Boys surf music
on it. Ha ha! This man is unstoppable! Bagman is starting to lose some
flexibility in his fingers as he "matures". He figures that moving to
three strings might allow him to keep playing for as long as possible.
Way to go!

This was the first ukulele I ever played. It's a tenor scale built to suit Bagman's big hands.
Bagman is a sod for tinkering. When he first made this ukulele, it was fully acoustic.
See that he's added a pickup somewhere along the line when I wasn't looking. Nothing
stays the same for long ;-) I love the head on this. But hold on a second, those extra
two machine heads weren't there last time...

Yep... Bagman's only gone and added two extra machine
heads. What on earth for? He wanted to experiment with
doubling up strings for his balalaika build. Aha!
See the hand-drawn graphic on the headstock... B.A.G.
Have you figured out where the "Bagman" idea came
from yet?

See the guitar on the left here. I think I'm right in saying that this was the first instrument
that Bagman ever built. I love the way that he repurposes things that he has lying around.
The fretboard is actually plastic from a pipe, heated and pressed flat. I believe that the
front is made from some wood salvaged from an old car. The neck was from a fireplace
surround. And yes, the pickup is a recent addition, as is the fender bridge. Ha ha.
Bagman told me that when he made this guitar, he coated it with yacht varnish. When
it had dried, he strung it up and it sounded "bloody rubbish!" He almost smashed it up.
In disgust he shoved it in the back of his garage and forgot about it. Months later, he
stumbled across it and gave it a strum. "It sounded bloody marvelous," he told me
with that trademark glint in his eye. "It just needed time to cure!"

Bagman's workshop is the sum of years and years of
accumulating. I love it. If  I'm in need of something
special, or simply an idea, I know that I can go to
Bagman and he's happy to help me out. Thanks mate!

Here's my last picture.  As well as ukes, Bagman also has a penchant for slide guitar.
Check out "the Sonic", Bagman's electric lap slide. It's a seven-stringer. Can you see that
he's made it with a built-in amplifier! Fantastic! Try this as home kids!

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